In Jimmy Butler’s first game since injuring his knee on February 23, the Timberwolves defeated the Lakers 113-96. This is the first time in the franchise history the Timberwolves have swept the season series against the Lakers.
The Minnesota Timberwolves came into Friday’s matchup with Lakers desperately needing a win in order to stay afloat in the all-out Western Conference war for playoff seeding. The Lakers, featuring a hobbled Kyle Kuzma and the boys of South Bay, needed nothing.
Brook Lopez made barbecue chicken of Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves defense in the first quarter as the Lakers big man scored the team’s first 15 points. Minnesota point guard Jeff Teague dropped nine points in the first, leading the Wolves to a 30-26 lead at the end of the quarter.
After Tom Thibodeau made the questionable decision to employ a defensive backcourt of Derrick Rose and Jamal Crawford, the Lakers went on a 20-4 second quarter run ending in a Lopez and-one layup to put the team up 52-40 with 3:08 remaining. Behind a ten-point quarter from Josh Hart, the Lakers went into halftime leading the Timberwolves 58-51.
A 22-10 run to start the third quarter left the Timberwolves up 73-68 with 3:53 remaining while Kyle Kuzma headed to the locker room (and would not return) to receive treatment on his mild left ankle sprain. Seeming to have mentally checked out after Kuzma’s departure, the Lakers ended the third quarter down 80-73.
Los Angeles never recovered and the Wolves feasted on the opportunity to take a home a must-have victory. Led by Jeff Teague’s 25 points, eight assists, four rebounds, two steals and only one turnover in 33 minutes of play, the Timberwolves were able to secure their No. 45 win of the season.
In his return to action, Jimmy Butler played 20 minutes and recorded 18 points. Karl Anthony Towns notched a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds while Andrew Wiggins had 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Josh Hart and Julius Randle, both bullies in their own right, recorded double-doubles in the Lakers’ loss. Hart finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Randle put up 20 points and 10 boards.
The Lakers, now 34-45 on the season, will next play on Sunday against the Utah Jazz.